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Honoring Dr. King with health equity

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We at Be The Match have been watching, along with the rest of the nation, as we experience political and civil unrest unparalleled in recent decades. And on the heels of a past year that has continued to bring unprecedented obstacles, our priority continues to be the safety and well-being of our patients, donors, network partners and employees. While in this time of heightened stress and uncertainty, we find hope in the knowledge that we are stronger together and that dedicated acts of service can and will make things better. Where there is hope, there is possibility.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We find hope where we at Be The Match are best equipped to make change possible. Our vision is to democratize cellular therapy—to ensure that every American, regardless of ethnicity, background, age, or socioeconomic status, has an equal chance of finding a donor, and a successful outcome from their transplant. Our goal is to double the number of lives saved in underserved populations—with no discernable difference in outcomes—by 2023.

One easily understood opportunity for growth is in the diversity of our donor registry. Currently, there are too few ethnically diverse members who have volunteered to donate and it means that Black patients have as low as a 23 percent chance of finding a match compared to 77 percent for White patients. The markers used to identify potential matches are inherited, so ethnic backgrounds are a huge factor in whether someone is a potential match or not. We need a registry that is as diverse as the patients who need help, so we’re investing ten times the funding to recruit and disrupt that disparity. Joining the registry is one immediate step you can take to help, too.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our staff helps patients navigate financial barriers, insurance coverage issues, logistical challenges, and advocates to improve health equity. Our commitment to addressing these injustices is evident in some of our recent investments and practices as well. We’ve hired a director of Diversity and Inclusion and have formed a Black Employee Resource Group which engages our employees in and informs our organization about Black culture. We are committed to adding a Twin Cities-based paid community engagement fellowship focused on building relationships and increasing trust with ethnically diverse communities. In addition, we have pledged $250,000 by year-end toward partnerships with community and civic organizations serving diverse communities such as the National Urban League Young Professionals.

On this Monday, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the legacy he built, and the lessons he taught, we can reflect on the question he left us with in one of his final speeches: “in order to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”…we must first honestly recognize where we are now.” Dr. King’s sacrifices toward racial justice and equity are both inspiring and humbling. We know we still have a long way to go but find hope in the progress we are making and the possibilities we see before us.